Heights, Saints play out thrilling elimination final

SEPTEMBER 02, 2013 11:30AM


"IT WAS a tough day,'' Chelsea Heights coach Ash Roberts said with a wry smile after his team had pinched a thrilling one-point victory over St Kilda City in extra time in Sunday's elimination final at Springvale.

It wasn't until the final minutes that the Heighters looked a chance after the Saints had grabbed an eight-point lead as the two five-minutes halves of extra time rapidly came to a conclusion.

But it was spearhead Luke Manders who came to the rescue with two goals in the final minutes of play, the winning goal coming with only 30 seconds left on the clock.

"We locked it down then and were pretty happy to hear the siren,'' Roberts said.

"We didn't play our best footy so it was a huge relief to get there in the end. But full credit to St Kilda City, they did their homework on us and played a great brand of football.''

Young Erish Uthayakumar proved an ideal foil up forward for Manders and finished with five goals for the Demons.

"It was Erish's best game for the club,'' said Roberts, who was enthusiastic about the young blood in the side.

"We had eight players from the Under 19s in the team today so it augurs well for the future of the club."

But it was the seasoned campaigners who guided the Demons home in the end. Phil Smith, playing his first game in more than five weeks, was a tower of strength all day. "I don't think the extra ten minutes helped Phil much but he got through,'' Roberts said with a laugh.

Fellow veterans Darren Walsh and Scott Murphy also excelled for the winners, as did the reliable Rhett Moor at full-back.

For the Saints, it was so close and yet so far and they had many outstanding players, with the hard-running Max Bruin and ruckman Steve Arvanitis among them. The brilliant Gary Johnstone was again a workhorse for the Saints, while coach Gav Mahoney led from the front all day.

The Heighters will now meet Dingley in next Sunday's sudden-death first semi-final at Springvale.

Reigning premier East Brighton advanced to the second semi-final with a 47-point victory over Dingley in the qualifying final at Springvale on Saturday.

The Vampires worked their way to a handy 23-point lead at the long interval before breaking the game open in the third quarter with 5-7 to the Dingoes' 1-1 to shut the gate entirely.

In what was a hard-fought game, East's constant pressure proved decisive, according to coach Barry Hope.

"I thought our pressure was good all day and we were able to stop Dingley's run. They love to get out wide and move the ball quickly and can be very dangerous when they are allowed to do that."

Usually it's Mark Jamieson among the goals and although he was one of the Vampires' best, it was older brother Matt who stole the limelight with a six-goal haul.

The former premiership coach lurked dangerously in a forward pocket and he was well supported by Ben Douthie, who bagged four of his own from centre-half-forward. Fleet-footed Tait Sabec repeatedly drove the Vampires into attack, with Dave De Luca and coach Hope among their other impressive contributors.

Dingley was well served by the hardworking Danny Tunik and creative defender Travis La Rocca, with James Ball, Darren Andrews, Tom Dureau and Tony Lavars also conspicuous.

In Division 2, Springvale Districts' finals campaign came to an agonising end at Clayton on Sunday when Murrumbeena stole the game by two points in the dying moments.

After leading all day, the Demons supporters watched on in disbelief as Murrumbeena's Justin Ando, better known as a defender, snapped the winning goal from the goalsquare for the Lions. It was the first time the Beena had been in front all day.

"We thought we had it at three-quarter-time, but we ran out of legs," Vales coach Jack McTaggart said.

"The game was pretty physical and we were looking OK with a five-goal lead. But in the end, they were a bit quicker and we couldn't hang on."

Veteran Matt Campbell battled his heart out for the Demons, as did big Dan Wilson in the ruck. Skipper Gav Vassallo was always dangerous, as was his good mate and fellow veteran, Leighton Ross, but there simply weren't enough like them in the end.

McTaggart also paid tribute to full-back Justin Doust, who did a sterling job on high-scoring Murrumbeena spearhead Daniel Willis.

"Justin kept Willis to two goals, even though he got a third when moved away from full-forward. It was a great effort."

With his first season as coach at an end, McTaggart was upbeat about the Vales' future.

"Last year, we missed finals and this year we could so easily have been onto the second round, so it's an improvement,'' he pointed out.

"But the real positive is that today, nine of our players played in their first senior final. We lost a lot of senior players at the end of last season and replaced them with youngsters, which is a good sign for the future."

Murrumbeena's many good players included Josh Ricketson, who starred at centre-half-back, Michael Kinsella and Willis in the second half when moved further afield.

Oakleigh District had to withstand a withering finish by Mordialloc to scramble home by eight points in Saturday's Division 2 qualifying final at Clayton.

Trailing by an almost unassailable 51 points at the last break, the Bloods stormed home with nine goals to two to almost snatch a miraculous win.

"We were pleased to get away with a win in the end, it got a bit scary there for a while,'' said Districts coach Scott Chalwell afterwards. "We took our foot off the pedal a bit and you can't do that in finals. Once a good team like Mordialloc gets a run on, they're pretty hard to stop", he said.

"It was a good test for our boys and I was pleased with our attack on the ball and our even spread of contributors."

In what was a hard, physical contest, the Oaks always looked to have the Bloods' measure until that frantic final term.

Their disposal was clean and their delivery into their forward 50m was constructive, with Kane Michelini providing plenty of drive from half-back.

Tough, in-and-under specialist Lou Gangemi was in everything in what was arguably his best game for the season. Big Matt Hacket was also a tower of strength in the ruck for the Oaks and helped to minimise the effect of Bloods tap man, Sean Van Velsen.

Clever on-baller and forward Dean Sgambelloni was also a livewire, while Will LeMarca continued his great form of the past month.

The Oaks also had multiple options up forward, where Dave Velardo was busy with three goals. The Mordialloc revival was led by the nimble Carey Neville, who repeatedly drove his team forward, along with the gritty Todd Bastion and midfielder Anthony Scafidi.

Nathan Evans and Tony DeMacedo also shone for the Bloods, who live to fight another day in next weekend's first semi-final.

In Division 3 Carrum Patterson Lakes continued to make every post a winner in its comeback season.

The Lions held out a fast-finishing Dandenong to escape by six points in a hard-fought qualifying final on Saturday.

"It was a great win by the boys,'' a relieved Lions coach Andrew Lucas said.

"I thought we were safe at three-quarter-time. They had only kicked four goals in three quarters and I thought that there was no way they could kick five in the last."

But with the help of a 'bit of a breeze', the Redlegs stormed home with seven goals, giving Lucas and his team some anxious moments.

"They just kept coming and we should have been prepared for it because they've done that before against us," he said.

"But in the end, our good, even contribution across the board got us home. We had no passengers and that's how it has to be to win finals."

Lucas pointed to his team's tackling as a key ingredient of the victory and there was no finer exponent of it than Brett Willson, who was on song all day.

The coach also praised the efforts of Stu Cormack, who was given the task of reducing the influence of brilliant Dandenong youngster Matt Van Shajik.

"I know they named Matt among their best, but I thought Stu did a standout job on him and it could have been the difference in the end. He has torn us apart in the past."

Young Jordan Stephens was also impressive across half-back for the winners, while Warren Judd had a day out on his wing. Lucas himself got plenty of it, as did clever forward Dan Polson, who snagged four goals.

"We left our run too late and just weren't quite good enough on the day,'' Redlegs coach Daniel Atkin said.

"You can't win finals with only one quarter of your best football.

"It was a big effort in the last quarter when we applied more pressure and nearly got there, but we would have stolen it.

"I think their experience counted for more in the end.

"They've got lots of players who are experienced in finals, whereas we have a spread of young players who have never tasted finals football. They will have learned a lot and as a team, we will benefit from the experience."

Atkin pointed to the second quarter as the turning point of the game.

"We had played really well against the wind in the first quarter, but when we had the use of it in the second, they outscored us."

Although the brilliance of young first-year player Matt Van Shajik was curbed by the Lions' Stu Cormack, he was still an affective contributor for the Redlegs.

Chris Tosin was also lively across half-forward for Dandenong, with big-hearted Regan Hall, Chris Hatfield and Rob Mackwell among their many other good players.

"We'll certainly take plenty of positives into next week's final, Atkin added.


Original article: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/bayside/heights-saints-play-out-thrilling-elimination-final/story-fngnvmn9-1226708927186

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